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To achieve the best match it is necessary to analyse the basic components in both the wine and the food. The principal is to try to balance them so that neither the food or the wine overpowers the other. So here are a few tips to help guide you towards for the perfect match.
It is important to try to match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine. Normally it is powerful red wines that are the favoured choice, but it is the weight of the wine, not the colour or flavour, which is the most important consideration. A full-bodied white wine is usually a better match with meatier canapés than a light-styled red wine. Lightweight food like poultry and fish are complemented by more delicate wines.
Wines that possess a higher acidity complement fatty foods, and both food and wine can have acidity. Certain grape varieties naturally produce high-acid wines - Muscadet, for example. Wines from cool climates will have more acidity than those from hot climates. A classic example is Champagne or English sparkling wine served with smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon.
Salty foods are enhanced and balanced by a hint of sweetness, such as Parma ham and melon. The same thing can be achieved with wine - a sweet wine like a Sauternes is a great match with salty Roquefort cheese. Whilst salt can clash with tannin (as it makes it seem more bitter), it works very well with acidity. Therefore, a salty nibble would work perfectly with a sparkling wine.
For a dry wine to work with salty food it should have low tannins and noticeable acidity. It is easier to find white wines with these characteristics than reds, but there are some red wines to fit the bill - Beaujolais, for example.
The wine should always be sweeter than the food. Sweetness in wine acts as a foil to rich foods. Sweet wines with a good level of acidity, such as a Coteaux du Layon, are a perfect match for rich foods. Their acidity will cut through the fat and the wine's sweetness will complement the richness.If you are in doubt it is always good to remember that foods generally go best with the wines they grew up with. So if you're eating Italian food, think about having an Italian wine. This isn't a requirement, but often helps simplify the decision. All in all, there are no clear rules for food and wine matching. Opinion can vary greatly when it comes to matching, but certain flavours bring out the best in each other. So good luck with finding your perfect pairings and enjoy the matching process!
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